Abner Doubleday said it best when he said, "To make the playoffs, you need good players."
The grand old game's inventor couldn't have known how right he was. Doubleday also couldn't have known that, in an effort to win the championship of the game he devised, the Angels would one pay Albert Pujols $240 million over ten years.
To make the playoffs, you need good players, and to get good players, you have to pay money to get them. Although many front offices have accepted that maybe it isn't best to fling a quarter of a billion dollars at one baseball player, a few foolhardy, Streinbrenner-blooded general managers are still willing to pay the big bucks. And a few renegade GMs, trying to acquire those necessary good players, have gotten a little too spendy, putting their team's playoff chances in jeopardy.
More on the MLB Playoffs
More on the MLB Playoffs
We can all agree that Abner Doubleday's contract (free) was one of the best in baseball history, but what are some of the worst in 2014? These three contracts are not only ugly, but they could keep the teams paying them from making the postseason.
Dan Uggla, Braves (five-year, $62 million deal runs through 2015)
It's pretty Uggly (I can't have been the first to do that). Uggla's frenetic striking out (27.6% strikeout rate in 2014 after 31.8% in 2013), morose defense, and overall demeanor of hopelessness (he batted .171 in 13-14) caused the Braves to release him earlier this summer.
Atlanta still owes Uggla a year's worth of his $62 million salary, and for the Braves, whose payroll is generally around league average, that's difficult to afford. Justin Upton's MVP-discussion season has helped defray the cost of Uggla, and rookies Tommy La Stella and Phil Gosselin have been around replacement level.
Justin Verlander, Tigers (seven-year, $180 million deal runs through 2019, with a vesting option for 2020)
We've all seen Verlander's struggles this year. He's walking guys (2.31 K/BB, his lowest since 2008), and not striking them out (17.7 K%, lowest since 2006). Verlander's WHIP, FIP, and ERA have ballooned to Cecil Fielderian proportions, and his fastball seems to be riding the brakes all the way to the mitt.
Verlander's decline -- and his ever-present contract -- has been well-discussed, so why drag this former workhorse through the mud? Because Verlander's deal ($20 million this year, $28 million [!] over the next five [!]) essentially forces the Tigers to put all their eggs into a basket that barely has enough room leftover, since the team gave Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, like, a million eggs.
Having this little wiggle room forces new acquisitions like David Price to essentially pitch like peak Justin Verlander -- Price is capable of it, but still.
Jim Johnson, A's/Tigers (one-year, $10 million deal)
You've made it this far -- I think this is a good time to take a break, find an A's fan, and give him or her a hug. A side hug works, Maybe a consoling nod? The Athletics, obviously not big spenders, splurged this offseason, letting Grant Balfour walk and signing former Orioles closer Jim Johnson to a one-year, $10 million deal. 10 million doesn't sound like a lot, but it was the second-largest contract on the A's payroll to begin 2014 (behind Yoenis Cespedes' $10.5 million); and for a coupon-clipping club like Oakland, signing Johnson was almost like your grandmother taking the whole family out "somewhere nice," and spending 100 bucks at Applebee's.
Johnson was awful in 40 innings for the A's (the numbers are scary: 7.14 ERA, and...I'll stop there -- they only get worse), and Oakland released him, sending the team on a year-long quest of assembling a bullpen. They found a gem in Sean Doolittle, but he's been injured since August 24 -- since then the A's are 5-12, and have one save. (Doolittle is expected to be activated today.)